BCCI to groom Olympic champions for India

Published: Monday, April 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's cash-rich cricket authorities have created a million-dollar fund to develop champions in other sports, an official said.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will take promising 15-year-olds from Olympic sports under its wing and sponsor their training and education in a bid to make them world-class athletes.

"Cricket may not be an Olympic sport but as Indians we have a responsibility to help in producing Olympic champions," BCCI president Sharad Pawar said on Monday.

"We have decided to put aside a million dollars for the purpose."

Cricket is by far the most popular sport in the country and earned the BCCI sponsorship and television rights worth a billion dollars in the last six months.

But while cricket prospers, other disciplines have to depend on government grants to secure good coaching facilities and international exposure.

The Indian squad at last month's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne received a daily allowance of 20 dollars without fees or incentives.

In comparison cricketers earn hefty salaries, match fees and endorsement deals ranging from five million dollars a year for superstars like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and a million dollars for junior players.

India has won only eight Olympic gold medals, all in field hockey, the last of them in the western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980.

The last three Olympics produced just three individual medals through tennis star Leander Paes (bronze at Atlanta in 1996), woman weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari (bronze at Sydney in 2000) and shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore (silver at Athens in 2004).

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